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Where naked boys bridling tame water-snakes,

Or charioteering ghastly alligators,
Had left on the sweet waters mighty wakes

Of those huge forms;—within the brazen doors
Of the Great Labyrinth slept both boy and beast,
Tired with the pomp of their Osirian feast.


And where within the surface of the river
The shadows of the massy temples lie,

And never are erased, but tremble ever

Like things which every cloud can doom to die,—

Through lotus-paven canals, and wheresoever
The works of man pierced that serenest sky

With tombs and towers and fanes,—'twas her delight

To wander in the shadow of the night.


With motion like the spirit of that wind

Whose soft step deepens slumber, her light feet

Passed through the peopled haunts of humankind, Scattering sweet visions from her presence sweet,—

Through fane and palace-court and labyrinth mined With many a dark and subterranean street

Under the Nile; through chambers high and deep

She passed, observing mortals in their sleep.


A pleasure sweet doubtless it was to see
Mortals subdued in all the shapes of sleep.

Here lay two sister-twins in infancy;

There a lone youth who in his dreams did weep;

Within, two lovers linked innocently

In their loose locks which over both did creep

Like ivy from one stem; and there lay calm

Old age with snow-bright hair and folded palm.

But other troubled forms of sleep she saw,

Not to be mirrored in a holy song,—
Distortions foul of supernatural awe,

And pale imaginings of visioned wrong,

And all the code of Custom's lawless law

Written upon the brows of old and young. "This," said the Wizard Maiden, " is the strife Which stirs the liquid surface of man's life."

And little did the sight disturb her soul.

We, the weak mariners of that wide lake,
Where'er its shores extend or billows roll,

Our course unpiloted and starless make O'er its wild surface to an unknown goal;

But she in the calm depths her way could take, Where in bright bowers immortal forms abide Beneath the weltering of the restless tide.

And she saw princes couched under the glow

Of sunlike gems; and round each temple-court In dormitories ranged, row after row,

She saw the priests asleep,—all of one sort, For all were educated to be so.

The peasants in their huts, and in the port
The sailors she saw cradled on the waves,
And the dead lulled within their dreamless graves.

And all the forms in which those spirits lay

Were to her sight like the diaphanous
Veils in which those sweet ladies oft array

Their delicate limbs who would conceal from us Only their scorn of all concealment: they

Move in the light of their own beauty thus. But these and all now lay with sleep upon them, And little thought a Witch was looking on them.


She all those human figures breathing there

Beheld as living spirits. To her eyes The naked beauty of the soul lay bare,

And often through a rude and worn disguise She saw the inner form most bright and fair:

And then she had a charm of strange device,

Which, murmured on mute lips with tender tone, Could make that spirit mingle with her own.


Alas! Aurora, what wouldst thou have given
For such a charm, when Tithon became grey—

Or how much, Venus, of thy silver heaven
Wouldst thou have yielded, ere Proserpina

Had half (oh! why not all ?) the debt forgiven
Which dear Adonis had been doomed to pay—

To any witch who would have taught you it?

The Heliad doth not know its value yet .

'Tis said in after times her spirit free

Knew what love was, and felt itself alone:
But holy Dian could not chaster be

Before she stooped to kiss Endymion Than now this Lady. Like a sexless bee,

Tasting all blossoms and confined to none, Among those mortal forms the Wizard Maiden Passed with an eye serene and heart unladen.


To those she saw most beautiful she gave
Strange panacea in a crystal bowl.

They drank in their deep sleep of that sweet wave,
And lived thenceforward as if some control,

Mightier than life, were in them; and the grave Of such, when death oppressed the weary soul,

Was as a green and overarching bower

Lit by the gems of many a starry flower.


For, on the night that they were buried, she
Restored the embalmer's ruining, and shook

The light out of the funeral lamps, to be
A mimic day within that deathy nook;

And she unwound the woven imagery
Of second childhood's swaddling bands, and took

The coffin, its last cradle, from its niche,

And threw it with contempt into a ditch.


And there the body lay, age after age,
Mute, breathing, beating, warm, and undecaying

Like one asleep in a green hermitage,—
With gentle sleep about its eyelids playing,

And living in its dreams beyond the rage

Of death or life; while they were still arraying

In liveries ever new the rapid, blind,

And fleeting generations of mankind.


And she would write strange dreams upon the brain

Of those who were less beautiful, and make All harsh and crooked purposes more vain

Than in the desert is the serpent's wake Which the sand covers. All his evil gain

The miser, in such dreams, would rise and shake
Into a beggar's lap; the lying scribe
Would his own lies betray without a bribe.

The priests would write an explanation full,

Translating hieroglyphics into Greek,
How the god Apis really was a bull,

And nothing more; and bid the herald stick The same against the temple doors, and pull

The old cant down: they licensed all to speak Whate'er they thought of hawks and cats and geese, By pastoral letters to each diocese.


The king would dress an ape up in his crown

And robes, and seat him on his glorious seat, And on the right hand of the sunlike throne

Wpuld place a gaudy mockbird to repeat The chatterings of the monkey. Every one

Of the prone courtiers crawled to kiss the feet Of their great emperor when the morning came; And kissed—alas, how many kiss the same!


The soldiers dreamed that they were blacksmiths, and Walked out of quarters in somnambulism;


Round the red anvils you might see them stand

Like Cyclopses in Vulcan's sooty abysm,
Beating their swords to ploughshares :—in a band

The gaolers sent those of the liberal schism
Free through the streets of Memphis—much, I wis,
To the annoyance of king Amasis.

And timid lovers, who had been so coy

They hardly knew whether they loved or not,
Would rise out of their rest, and take sweet joy,

To the fulfilment of their inmost thought;
And, when next day the maiden and the boy

Met one another, both, like sinners caught,
Blushed at the tiling which each believed was done
Only in fancy—till the tenth moon shone;

And then the Witch would let them take no ill:

Of many thousand schemes which lovers find,
The Witch found one,—and so they took their fill

Of happiness in marriage warm and kind.
Friends who, by practice of some envious skill,

Were torn apart (a wide wound, mind from mind)
She did unite again with visions clear
Of deep affection and of truth sincere.


These were the pranks she played among the cities
Of mortal men. And what she did to .Sprites

And Gods, entangling them in her sweet ditties,
To do her will, and show their subtle sleights,

I will declare another time; for it is

A tale more fit for the weird winter nights

Than for these garish summer days, when we

Scarcely believe much more than we can sec.


We spent the summer of 1820 at the Baths of San Giuliano, four miles from Pisa. These baths were of great use to Shelley in soothing his nervous irritability. We made several excursions in the neighbourhood. The country around is fertile, and diversified and rendered picturesque by ranges of near hills and more distant mountains. The peasantry are a handsome intelligent race ; and there was a gladsome

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